Dartmouth College at Copenhagen Via Climate Interactive

December 11, 2009 by Stephanie McCauley

Dartmouth College released a press release about their impact in Copenhagen at the climate change conference. It focuses on how alumnus Todd Stern, the lead U.S. negotiator, will be using C-ROADS from the Climate Interactive team. Four of the developers behind the model — Drew Jones, Beth Sawin, Tom Fiddaman, and John Sterman — are Dartmouth alumni.

Dartmouth’s impact on Copenhagen climate change negotiations

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release Posted 12/08/09 • Media Contact: Office of Public Affairs (603) 646-3661

United States Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern, a member of Dartmouth’s Class of 1973, is the lead negotiator who will map out America’s strategy at the United Nations Climate Change Conference this week in Copenhagen, Denmark. And he will be relying on projections from a computer model developed by a group of Dartmouth alumni. These are just two of the many ways that Dartmouth alumni, faculty and students are having a big impact on the climate talks that are taking place right now.

To help develop their negotiating strategy, Stern and his team from the State Department are using the Climate Rapid Overview and Decision-support Simulator (C-ROADS). In seconds, this model calculates the effect of each nation’s greenhouse gas reduction pledges on long-term global climate, providing negotiators with instant feedback on alternative negotiating positions. C-ROADS was developed by Drew Jones, Class of 1990, Beth Sawin, Class of 1988, and Lori Siegel of the internationally renowned Sustainability Institute of Hartland, Vt., in collaboration with Tom Fiddaman, Class of 1987, of Ventana Systems of Harvard, Mass., and John Sterman, Class of 1977, of the System Dynamics Group at MIT. All these alumni trace their environmental commitment and their systems approach to problem solving to the late Donella Meadows, an environmental studies professor at Dartmouth, MacArthur Award winner, and founder of the Sustainability Institute.

“It was at Dartmouth that I first met Donella Meadows, who hired me in 1997 when she launched the Sustainability Institute,” said Sawin. “She introduced me not only to system dynamics modeling, but also to a way of looking at sustainability problems that assumes that people want to do the right thing, for the long term, and they will do so if we can provide them with the right information and incentives.”

C-ROADS is now being used by other nations in addition to the USA, including the European Union and China. Sawin and Jones are blogging about their efforts in Copenhagen, and operating the Climate Scoreboard, an online tool that uses C-ROADS to track the impact of proposals currently under consideration in the negotiations and make their results available to a worldwide audience in real time.

Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, through its Allwin Initiative for Corporate Citizenship, is also participating in the Copenhagen summit, motivated by the recognition that climate change raises complex issues at the intersection of business and society. Tuck has sent an international delegation of faculty, students, and staff to Copenhagen as accredited observers to attend sessions and meet international business groups and NGOs, with the aim of learning from and blogging about summit proceedings and their implications for global business. The Tuck team – the only business school to be formally represented at the summit – is led by Professor Anant Sundaram, whose recent research focuses on a new metric for scoring companies on their stock market exposure to fossil fuel use and contingent greenhouse gas emissions.

Sundaram, who developed a class on business and climate change at Tuck, notes, “Unlike other major global issues, climate change is one where businesses have the biggest cause-and-effect relationship. Companies are, by far, the largest emitters, and they will be the ones to commit resources and develop technologies to solve the problem. The challenges and opportunities for businesses from the emerging ‘climate economy’ are vast. We are entering an era in which the careers of MBAs graduating today will evolve in a world in which there is a price on carbon, the implications of which are wide-ranging.”

Dartmouth’s Climate Justice Research Project, a team of researchers led by Environmental Studies Professor Michael Dorsey and including undergraduate and graduate students, also is attending the conference to study the intersection of climate change, economic development, and social justice. “We hope to gain insights on the structure and design of emerging carbon markets,” said Dorsey. “If we want to secure just climate policies we must understand how key proposals, like carbon cap and trade, work to deliver justice or delay it.”

Accompanying Dorsey to Copenhagen is Uthman Olagoke, a a government major and sociology minor in the Class of 2011. “The Climate Justice Research Project allows me to apply what I’ve learned in the classroom to a major practical real world setting: investigating whether or not policy negotiations during the UN Climate Change Conference will place undue burden on marginalized communities around the world,” said Olagoke.

Still other Dartmouth students – without even leaving the campus – have already experienced “Copenhagen” negotiations in a role-playing exercise this fall using the C-ROADS model in a new environmental studies class, titled, Science for Sustainable Systems (see press release and video). In the class, Professor David Peart divided his students into negotiating teams representing affluent nations, rapidly developing nations, and less developed nations. After each round of negotiations, the teams’ positions were plugged into the C-ROADS model to gauge their global impact.

Peart noted, “Dartmouth’s influence on this climate conference highlights how systems thinking and environmental education at the College is preparing the leaders of tomorrow to tackle the earth’s most challenging problems.”